Tech Support: The Unsung Heroes

I spend a large portion of my evenings looking after this place. By “looking after”, I don’t necessarily mean maintaining the site. Oh no. That also means constantly holding back the suspiciously organised hordes of squirrels trying to get into WGN Tower via the air vent system on the roof (the sneaky little blighters adapted quickly like small fluffy Borg when I gaffer-taped up the letterbox).

Did someone say “Hazelnut Crunch Bar”?

If I find out who let word of our lifetime supply of Hazelnut Crunch Bars get out into the public domain there is going to be, erm, harsh(ish) language.

Anyway, I digress, massively. So, by night, doing WGN related shenanigans, and by day I work in the noble profession of Technical Support. Yes, I have said “Have you tried turning it off and back on again”, multiple times. And do you know what? It fixes the problem maybe 60% of the time. So there!

Up and down the country, nay, across this globe, we, the brave few, daily laugh in danger’s face making sure sales targets are met, project deadlines are kept and John from Accounts insatiable appetite for humorous cat videos is well fed (in his lunch break of course).

Some might say that we are the beating heart of our various workplaces and that without our intrepid brand of ingenuity and fixery, the organisation would wither and die. And others might say “Oi, IT Crowd! Give me an iPhone charging cable.”

We advise our customers what they need, get completely ignored and end up ordering and setting up a completely inappropriately overpowered supercomputer (on their cost centre of course). But when, just as we warned them, it doesn’t work at all how they expected, do we tell them “Tough Luck”? No! We are heroes who have prepared for the worst and we leap into action, doing the impossible and making it work against all the odds.

Like Bond with his Q, or Captain Kirk and Scotty (neither of whom are mentioned here as I wanted to highlight some of the lesser known ones), most good protagonists have one such lackey at their beck and call. Here are some memorable ones:

Shuri (Black Panther)

In a franchise already heavily populated with inventors and scientists, Shuri came out of this year’s Black Panther as one to be reckoned with. She’s as brave as Cap, sassy as Spider-Man and more inventive that Stark and Banner combined. Not to mention she’s not afraid to call the king of Wakanda out on his unusual fashion choices. Now that’s what I call a Disney Princess.

Why on earth is she a sidekick? Never mind her big brother. She should have her own title.

What’s that? She does? See! I told you!

Kate (A Knight’s Tale)

Not all tech support gurus are up to their elbows in circuit boards and cabling – technically capable folks have been expected to fix stuff all the way down the ages. I often encounter people in my job who believe that their need for something to work outweighs my ability to fix it. So fair play to Kate who flawlessly fixes Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein of Gelderland’s armour no matter how much punishment he puts it through.

Also, like most tech support folk I know, she can beat anyone in a bottom-burping competition.

Wheeljack (Transformers)

Everybody loves a trier, or so they say, and poor old Wheeljack does try so very hard. His carburettor is in the right place but 75% of the things he builds either breaks down or explodes (or both). However, that 25% of the time he gets it right makes all the pain and reconstructive surgery under Ratchet worth it.

Even the Decepticons admire his contraptions- partly because of all the damage they inflict on the Autobots but mostly because they are as awestruck by his amazing-but-rare working inventions as everyone else.

Owen (Tango & Cash)

Apparently, the LAPD has an R&D lab just like Q’s full of boffins making deadly wossnames to aid the fighting of crime. Well, a bit like Q’s lab, but run by that funny little chap from Roxanne, Scrooged and that episode of Star Trek where the children took over (known to his friends a Michael J Pollard). Our titular heroes snag his “experimental” armoured car which appears to be a fairly standard pickup truck (in fact it was a modified 1988 Chevrolet K-2500 Silverado) with a roof shoved on the back and a mini-gun gaffer taped to the side of it. But Owen’s greatest achievement has to be his weaponised footwear, which Gabe Cash affectionately calls Bazooka Boots.

Carl (Van Helsing)

What’s with tech guys’ love for big lenses?

If there’s one film that deserves a second look, I’d argue that it’s 2004’s much-maligned monster-mash Van Helsing (say what you like about it but it’s still better than Universal’s recent attempt to create a Classic Monster universe). One thing that it does get dead right is David Wenham’s gadgeteer and comic relief – Carl The Friar. In a rare example of the tech guy getting major fieldwork, Carl’s weapons and doohickeys save Van Helsing’s skin on more than one occasion. Just like a Victorian Q, he seems to be able to predict exactly what Van Helsing will need.

Even his untested prototypes come in handy – although to be fair, when he mentioned he’d invented a Daylight Bomb but didn’t know what it would be useful for, everyone watching groaned inwardly at this most unsubtle of Chekov’s Guns.

Cisco (The Flash)

All tech-geeks must wear pop-culture reference t-shirts. It’s the law.

It’s not unknown for the techie to step up and join the team in the field, providing valuable on-the-job support. Think Carl above or Benji from the Mission: Impossible films. But Cisco Ramone takes things that one step further by developing meta-human abilities of his own.

Being able to quickly teleport in to save folk sure is a useful skill but even Vibe’s powers don’t match his alter-ego’s ability to invent and/or repair the gizmos that aid Team Flash in their fight against crime. Cisco’s technical know-how is matched only by his skill at naming supervillains.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Lucius Fox (Batman)
  • Microchip (The Punisher)
  • A. Heller (Mystery Men)
  • Abraham Whistler (Blade)
  • Pixel (Lazytown)

Paul Childs

As well as writing for Den of Geek and Your Truth, Paul also runs Badgers Crossing, a site for ghost stories. He loves the 1980s and thanks to a keen interest in Public Information Films he has never been electrocuted or set himself on fire.

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